Millenium Bridge, London

New WHO data shows more government action needed to protect people from harmful air

The World Health Organization (WHO) today published new data that shows an alarming proportion of people in most EU countries are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.

The WHO estimates that in countries across Europe, between 74% to 90% of the population could be exposed to levels of air pollution that are higher than those it recommends.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “Air pollution has no borders – it affects people across Europe and around the world. The European Commission has a responsibility to protect Europeans from breathing dirty air. All pollutants and sources of air pollution need to be tackled.

“However, the Commission’s recent decision to delay taking legal action against nine EU countries for breaking air pollution limits sends all the wrong signals to national governments, suggesting toxic air is something that the EU is prepared to tolerate.

“Europe may be increasing its commitments to monitor and reduce air pollution but there is still a lot of work to do. Levels of air pollution are still at illegal and harmful levels in towns and cities across Europe.”

UK air pollution particles at unsafe levels

In the UK, the data shows that more than half of towns and cities where measurements were taken have levels of fine particle air pollution above recommended limits.

The UK government is currently struggling to meet legal limits of nitrogen dioxide, which comes mostly from diesel vehicles. But today’s report highlights harmful levels of PM2.5, fine particulate matter pollution, is also choking streets up and down the country.

James added: “These new statistics show a worrying level of this dangerous air pollution across the country. People shouldn’t have to breathe air on a daily basis which the WHO deems unhealthy.

“A new Clean Air Act would protect our right to breathe clean air and drive greater ambition to meet safer WHO guideline levels. UK ministers should commit to this now. Without it, many people across the UK will continue to pay with their health.”

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Alex Pardoe

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